Myth: All help is helpful.
I have a household policy of accepting all offers of help unless they will severely negatively effect the family. I find it sifts the genuine from the non-genuine pretty quickly and in this age where so few help, I believe every attempt in this area should be encouraged! I am ALWAYS thankful for the thought. The act, however, isn't always as helpful as the 'helper' intended! Let me explain.
I was once sick with the flu. Of course, so were the children and so was Jon - they were all much worse than me (i.e. they were bedridden, I could drag myself around). We were ALL miserable. Just as I was about to put tea in the crock pot, there was a knock at the door. Bliss! Someone knew we weren't well and was offering to bring around tea that evening!! Of course I accepted. I put the sausages back in the freezer (I hadn't defrosted them yet) and turned my attention to the train wreck that was the lounge room and laundry. Fast forward to mid-afternoon. My helper let me know there had been a slight crisis (they broke my crock pot that they had borrowed and were going to replace it) but tea was still coming. I was a bit sad about the crock pot, but it was going to be replaced so I wasn't worried. I said not to worry about tea but they insisted, so I stuck with what I was doing. Time ticked by, and ticked by, and ticked by. My overtired, sick and hungry children were approaching bedtime and there was still no sign of tea. I got out the sausages and started defrosting and there was a knock at the door, just letting me know that tea WAS on it's way still.
Tea finally arrived about an hour after the children's bed time, about two hours after I had PLANNED to put them to bed that night. I was thankful for the soup in the end, but I sobbed a few tears of exhaustion and frustration as I cooked the sausages after the children and Jon were in bed. I had already defrosted them and they needed to be cooked, but I was so ill and tired I could barely stand. The thought was appreciated, but the actual help made life harder for me, not easier. I had filled that time in the morning that I would have used to prepare tea with other things, relying on the offer of help. I HAD planned to make tea in the morning because I knew we'd need an early tea and an early night and I knew I'd be too tired to cook. The thought was genuine, but to be truly helpful they needed to tell me mid-afternoon that tea would be that late, then I would have been able to cook at a reasonable hour and save the soup 'till the next day. It also didn't help that the next time I saw my helper I was treated to a long story of how difficult it was to help me, complete with the band aid on her finger to show how she'd cut herself performing her good deed. To tell the truth, a tiny part of me felt like breaking that finger! But seeing as she meant well, I just thanked her and let it be.
There is also the incident of the relative and the washing. When Christopher was a few days old she turned up and offered to help for the afternoon. I thanked her and asked her to bring in the washing for me. She did so, complaining the WHOLE time about how much washing there was and how much Erin talked (excited 3 year olds get a little chatty, who knew??). When she had it inside I invited her to sit and have a cuppa and a rest after her hard work, but she insisted that she wanted to fold it all for me. So I let her go ahead. Again, the whole time I was told how this amount of washing was the amount she'd do in a week or more (really??? Who'd have thought a single woman would make less washing than a family of five with two in cloth nappies!!). Finally she pronounced that she'd finished and, after sipping a cuppa for a while, she left and went home.
I went to put the washing away and found that she'd folded less than a third of the washing and left the folded portion sitting on the top to make it look like she'd done it all (crushing what was underneath). Now, I don't know about anyone else, but in the first weeks after a baby is born I can't let the laundry pile up even a little bit or it just takes over the house - this was especially so after Christopher as he would projectile vomit at least 15 times a day at this stage (quite happily mind you, but in copious quantity!). Of course, I didn't find that the washing wasn't folded until I was about to start the evening routine of baths and tea and didn't have time to fold it. I folded it in the end when I would have otherwise been collapsing into bed. And yes, there were a few hormonal tears of frustration.
But I think the worst was the dinner guest and the washing. We had invited a family to join us for dinner. After dinner our guest noted the pile of clean, dry washing waiting to be folded with shocked horror. She insisted on helping me fold it right there and then and while we folded, she lectured me on how to keep house and stay on top of the washing (she had two children born three years apart, now in their teens, and parents who lived close by and were very involved in her life with babysitting etc. I didn't find much in her diatribe in terms of practical tips!). At the end of the evening the washing was all nicely folded, saving me from having to do it after she left, but I felt like a complete failure. It wasn't her help I found fault with, it was her judgement. I didn't have the heart to point out that I had left the washing 'till later so Erin and I could find some special flowers to decorate the table for them - I still believe I made the better choice, I just wish I'd hid the washing to avoid her judgement!
As I said, I accept all offers of help and I truly appreciate the spirit even if the act isn't always helpful!! But if you REALLY want to help - do it without complaining or judging (2 Cor 9:7 - God loves a cheerful giver!!), say what you can do then do what you say you will!!
It may make you feel good to promise the world, but if you can't deliver don't offer it. "A person who doesn't give a promised gift is like clouds and wind that don't bring rain." Proverbs 25:14. If you have ever lived through drought, you will know just how heartbreaking this can be!!